Saturday, November 29, 2008

A couple CDs worth buying...

It's pretty rare that I find a CD these days where I actually like most of the songs.  The last decade or so has been mostly pretty disappointing, with most CDs having one, maybe two, decent songs on them.  Certainly not like when I was in junior high, or high school, when most CDs (yes, CDs did exist in those days) had at least four or five good songs.


So I was pleased to discover that most of the songs on Paramore's Riot are actually good.  After a decade of disappointment I have mostly given up on popular music releases, but after being exposed to two good songs from Paramore in Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour (That's What You Get and Misery Business are hands down my two favorite songs in these games), I decided to give their CD a chance, and I actually like it.  Normally I'm not a huge fan of music that is really heavy on distorted guitars, but for some reason Riot breaks away from that stereotype enough for me to really enjoy it.  It isn't all stellar, of course, but the majority of its tracks are better than most of the mediocre-at-its-best "music" that comes out of the recording industry these days.

I won't go into a lengthy description of the CD (most of which are usually meaningless anyway), but I will say that the 30-second samples you get on Amazon's web site are actually a pretty good representation of what the album is like.  In addition to being well written, there is enough variety in its style to keep things interesting.  So if you're into that kind of thing, I recommend this disc.

Christmas Tunes

Generally I follow the unwritten rule of not listening to Christmas music unless Thanksgiving has passed, and the new year is still ahead of us.  Last year I bought the Christmas DVD by Celtic Woman right around Christmas so I didn't have much time to listen to it before my Christmas music got put away.  But during Thanksgiving dinner I put the DVD in and really liked it.   Enough that the CD will be on my regular rotation through this holiday season.    Which is impressive because my collection of Christmas CDs is pretty extensive (49 albums at current count), so for anything to stand out says something about it.

The album is available in the form of MP3 downloads, a CD, and a DVD video of their concert.  I just wish the tracks on the CD were rearranged so its most powerful number, O Holy Night, were at the end instead of being right up front, and that their concert DVDs weren't lip synced.  Oh well.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

World Class Apple Pie

It’s Thanksgiving, which means Apple Pie.   So here a video that Brad and I made a while back for his recipe for a world-class apple pie…  The resulting pie is truly amazing!  Enjoy!

Gotta Love Advertising…

You may have seen these commercials for Guitar Hero: World Tour on television… they have been playing relatively frequently for some time now.

These make me laugh. Not only did they select a song for the commercials that doesn’t appear in the game, they also selected a song that doesn’t even have any guitars in it (at least not the portions of the song they used anyway). I know they were doing a parody of a scene from Risky Business, but maybe they should have saved this idea for Piano Hero instead?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Microsoft has just released the following commercial for their new Xbox 360 game, Lips:

I can't believe the awesomeness of  this commercial.  Mostly because of the song.  It's easily in my top 5 favorites from the 80s.  It's even my ringtone on my phone.  And it one of the best and most clever music videos ever made.

And then there is the literal version, and a zillion different covers.  But I like this parody:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Questions Raised by My Cheese

I like to make these little mini pizzas for dinner about once a week, consisting of a pre-made crust, pre-made sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and 9 pepperoni slices.  They are very good, and only take about a minute to prepare.  I am eating one right now as I write this.   Yummmmmmmm.

But I noticed that instructions on the cheese told me to "Use by 07:59 12/22/08" and, unfortunately, this raised more questions than it answered.  So I have composed this letter to the fine folks at the dairy:

Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Dairy,

My mozzarella cheese told me to use before 07:59 12/22/08.  While I appreciate the guideline on how long the cheese should remain edible, this particular instruction generated more questions in my mind than the number of questions that it answered.  In particular:

1. If you are specifying the hour and minute that the cheese expires, why did you not include the seconds?

2. What happens to me if I eat my cheese at 8 AM on December 22nd?

3. What does "use" mean? Does it just have to be cooked by that time, or must it be eaten?  Does the preparation stage count?  Or, more importantly, if it is still sitting in my stomach at 8 AM will I become violently ill?  Or might my face fall off?

4. What takes place in the cheese at 07:59 on December 22nd?  Is there an embedded microorganism that releases a colorless, odorless gas that causes the cheese to turn green?  Or does the bacteria have its own little alarm clock set to go off at that time?

5. How does the cheese know the date and time anyway?  And does its clock compensate for the recent change out of daylight saving time? 

6. How do I know the cheese clock is accurate?  If it is running fast it will go bad before 7:59, or possibly before December 22nd.  This seems important.

7. Which time zone is 07:59 in?  Can I prolong the life of my cheese by taking it to the west coast?

8. What is the exact required temperature setting for my refrigerator to make sure that my cheese expires precisely at 07:59 AM on December 22nd?  How many times am I allowed to open the door each day?  If the refrigerator's light bulb is burned out, what effect does that have on the life of my cheese?  What other foods are allowed to cohabitate in the refrigerator with my cheese, and in what quantity?

9. Would it be better for cheese to expire late in the afternoon or evening than the morning?  Mozzarella cheese isn't used in very many breakfast foods.  And I am very rare up before 7:59 AM.  7:59 AM would make more sense for cheddar; I could use it in an omelette or breakfast burrito.

10. Why is my cheese telling me what to do anyway?

If you have answers to the above questions I would be very grateful for a response.

Thank you for your time, and for a great product (unless you are reading this after 07:59 AM 12/22/08, in which case the product will have expired and no longer be so great).


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hopping In The Shower

Why do people always want to hop or jump in the shower?  Something about water… wet slick surfaces… lack of traction… make that sound very unsafe.

And why is everyone always firing at Will?  If I were named Will I think I’d stay inside all of the time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

TOTW #15: What’s that file again?

Again, another combined computer and multimedia tip.

What’s that file?

The names we have on your computer files often aren’t descriptive enough for us to know what they actually contain.  And sometimes it isn’t appropriate to rename a file (say, for example, if you want to keep the ordered sequence of files intact) so we need another way to tag our files to help us keep track of their contents.

Windows XP and Mac OS X all make this not only possible, but relatively easy.  (The capability to do this has been removed from Vista, the reasons for which are long, detailed, and boring.)  Each of these operating systems have the ability to store a comment, completely separate from the filename and the contents of the file.

To make these comments visible, open the folder containing the files you wish to view.  You must then tell your computer that you want to view your files in a detailed list format, and enable the Comments column of that view:

Windows XP:
1. Select the View menu, then select Details.
2. Select the View menu, then Choose Details, turn on Comments, click OK.


Mac OS X:
1. Select the View menu, then select As List.
2. Select the View menu, then Show View Options.  Turn on Comments.

Adding or editing comments for a file is pretty straightforward from there:

Windows XP:
1. Right-click a file, select Properties.
2. Select the Summary page.
3. Locate the Comments entry, click it, and enter your comments.

Mac OS X:
1. Select the file, then File / Get Info.
2. Enter the comments in the Spotlight Comments box.

This is a great way to tag photographs, music, etc. with data that you can’t or don’t want to store as part of the filename.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I think I might be sick

I can't sit still.  I have a really hard time sitting and doing next to nothing, whether it be to watch TV, read, even talk on the phone.  My mind goes a million miles an hour, thinking about everything that I need to do, as well as everything I want to do.  I just can't get the various projects I have out of my mind no matter what I do.

There are times when I should be relaxing to maintain my sanity.  We can't just work all of the time, right?  But every time I try I feel guilty that I'm not doing something productive. 

I can't go to sleep at night because I have so many things that I want to do.  And I'm only getting about 5-6 hours of sleep (or less) every night because I want to get back to work on different projects as soon as I can.

I find myself not taking time to eat.  One "meal" a day is all I take time for, and even then it's only long enough to prepare whatever I eat (usually something quick, like cereal, or a sandwich) and eat while I'm doing something else. 

I sometimes don't answer the phone when friends call, just because I'm right in the middle of an idea that I don't want to interrupt.

The funny thing about this is that none of this seems to be causing me any stress.  Deadlines and pressure from people to finish other non-work-related projects cause some stress, but not any of the "work" I'm involved with.

Is this a mental illness?

(This is meant as a rhetorical question; I'm not asking for responses.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's a Sad, Sad Day

November 4, 2008 will go down in history as a very sad day in American history.  After months of many heated opinions and exchanges of harsh words, it is official.  One voice has silenced another, at the peril of those that aren't as vocal.

I am referring, of course, to a compound mandate from the Federal Communication Commission that effective this next February it will become illegal for nearly all wireless microphones (and wireless in-ear-monitor systems) in existence today to be used.  (Did you think I was talking about something else?)  And then, as the second part of the double whammy, the frequencies they opened up after making the current frequencies illegal are now open for use for wireless Internet access and other wireless digital services. 

So first they are making existing microphones illegal by making it illegal to transmit in the frequencies currently in use.  And then, after they assigned a new radio band for microphones, they decided to allow other services onto that same band, creating interference.   Just think of how hard it is to have a conversation at a rock concert and you begin to understand the implications of this.

The first part is frustrating enough.  Existing microphones shouldn't cause significant interference with any devices on the current radio bands because of their very short range, so there wasn't really a need to make their use illegal.  They have co-existed with UHF television just fine for years.  A grandfather clause would have been perfect.  Then the FCC pushes us into a radio band that hasn't been used in the past, so no equipment is even available for purchase.  And then they are allowing that radio band to be used for other things, creating a huge potential for interference.  The only way to combat this new interference is to invest in new, much more expensive equipment, if you can even find it.

Those of us that currently own wireless equipment have had virtually no warning, and we haven't had any time to prepare to phase out and replace what we already have.  In the past when the FCC has made changes like this it hasn't affected low power equipment, so we haven't had to worry about replacing equipment.  And because it will become illegal to use what we now have, the stuff we have invested thousands and thousands of dollars in is officially now becoming totally worthless -- nobody will buy it because it isn't really legal to use it. 

Since the government is now offering coupons to make the transition to digital TV easier for people with analog televisions, maybe they ought to offer subsidy coupons to wireless microphone owners.  Okay, I'm not really serious about that... I am very much opposed to the "something for nothing" mentality, and I have always felt that it was wrong for the government to use tax revenues to benefit a small group of people.  But it sure would be nice if this were handled differently, because if I were to replace all of the wireless microphones I currently have with models with roughly the same level of performance, it would cost me roughly 12 x $2,500 = $30,000 or more, plus another $1,500 for my wireless in-ear-monitor system.  Ouch.  And I'm not one of the ones hit hardest.  Performing groups with more wireless systems have to use computerized, even higher end equipment to make sure that none of the microphones interfere with one another, so it will cost them a lot more.


Monday, November 3, 2008

It’s Election Season

Most of the time I avoid political and social commentary on my blog.  But right now I have a lot of thoughts in my head that I want to get down during this election season.

I realize that some reading this blog will oppose (maybe even strongly) my viewpoint.  That is fine; we are all entitled to our own opinions.  The only thing I ask is, that should you reply, you be courteous in your comments.  I don’t lash out at those that have differing opinions than my own, and I request the same courtesy be given to me.  You may express your opinions and beliefs, but any comments that are hostile or contain adult language WILL be deleted.  My blog, my rules.

Presidential Election

First of all, I really dislike both of the Presidential candidates that we have running right now.  I don’t think that either one is qualified to run anything, least of all the most powerful country in the world.  Neither one has any history of being able to make important decisions when they are put forward.  With all of the problems we have in the country right now I believe the most qualified person that has been involved in the election process was eliminated partly due to his religious beliefs, despite the fact that those core beliefs are probably what the country most needs right now.  Mitt Romney has a strong moral character, and is economically very wise.  Since we are in the midst of financial turmoil, someone with experience in fiscal issues would be an ideal person to make the decisions necessary to begin the road to fixing some of the challenges that face this country (to put it in the words of my friend Jared, “this country needs a CEO”).  Romney certainly isn’t perfect, but I believe that of those that the American public has had to choose from during this election cycle, he was probably the most fit for the job.  He certainly did a number of great things while in office in Massachusetts.

While I can’t endorse either Presidential candidate, I couldn’t possibly sleep at night if I were to cast a vote for Barack Obama.  He seems to believe in everything that I think is causing this country to experience many of the problems that we are facing.  And I believe it boils down to one core issue: taking away consequences for the actions of the citizens of the country.  Punishing the people that are doing the responsible thing, while rewarding those that choose to take no responsibility for their actions.

Allow me to explain.  Obama’s current tax proposal rewards those paying the least in (or even no) taxes, and punishes those that are paying the most.  Those not currently paying taxes would get a tax credit… effectively meaning that they would be given a reward for not working.  Those that are working, and are providing jobs for others who do likewise, are punished with higher taxes.  And this nonsense of the tax rates only being increased for the most wealthy is pure spin.  Obama wants to raise the capital gains tax from 15% to 20%, whereas McCain wants to maintain 15% long-term, with a two-year drop to 7.5%.  This is a tax that people pay on their earnings when they cash in their investments.  So anyone being responsible enough to save for the future is punished, while those spending everything they earn are, in effect, rewarded for their behavior.   Obama also wants to maintain the AMT, which is just evil in its own right because it penalizes for being married and having children.  While I don’t love McCain by any measure, he is in favor of cutting corporate taxes (currently at 35%, one of the highest rates in the civilized world, to 25%), where Obama talks about cutting tax loopholes for corporations, raising their effective rates.  It is the corporations that provide the vast, vast majority of jobs in this country, why are they being punished so harshly for promoting the general welfare of the people?  (If corporations didn’t pay so much, wouldn’t that mean more jobs, which means more tax revenue for the government?)

The only tax that Obama talks about cutting is the federal income tax, which for me only personally makes up about 20% of the taxes I pay.  Obama’s plan actually includes more tax hikes, most of them quite hefty, for nearly every other tax under federal control.  But nobody is talking about that.  And has anyone mentioned that our tax load is more than ten times what it was a century ago.  Is that really necessary, and is our government really providing ten times the services that they used to?  Certainly not, because if they did they’d be showing up at my doorstep three times a day with my meals.  Shouldn’t we be figuring out ways to significantly cut our tax burden instead of finding ways to make it worse?  Our current tax system is pretty messed up, and Obama’s plan only makes it worse.

Along those same lines, the health care proposal by Mr. Obama just scares me.  Basically it boils down to providing health care for those that don’t have it.  What is to prevent those that currently have it and choose to no longer pay for it from enrolling in a government-sponsored plan?  The current numbers for the cost of such a plan don’t include these individuals.  And once we’ve gone down that road, it’s only a matter of time before health care becomes a “right” granted to all, and provided by the government.  Looking at the health care system in Canada and England ought to scare us enough to realize that this doesn’t work.  No competition = expensive with poor service.  To argue that things wouldn’t go this way is a bit naive… how many people are going to electively pay for their own health insurance if the government will pick up the tab for you?  Certainly not the majority of the population, and certainly not the companies that are currently providing healthcare for their employees.  They are all about the bottom line, and they would experience enormous savings by abandoning their health benefit programs if someone else (the government) would take that over… all it takes is to find a way to pull it off.  Just keep in mind that Social Security was once a program designed for a small portion of the population too.  And now it’s mandated by law.  And we see how well that works.  (On a side note, the tax burden for social security for self-employed individuals is several times higher than their federal income tax load…  Shouldn’t this be one of those issues that is talked about?)

Why don’t we address the core issues of why health care is so expensive?  We don’t hear any talk about regulating frivolous lawsuits or reducing the cost of malpractice insurance, or even placing a tax on expensive prescription medication so companies have an incentive to bring the price down. 

I believe that in general government-sponsored social programs just don’t work.  So why do we keep creating and funding them?  These programs are part of why our tax load is so heavy.  Many of the programs we currently have probably ought to be reviewed to see if they are really effective, and get rid of those that aren’t.  And privatize nearly all of them so they have to start being responsible with their resources.  If they can’t survive on their own, they probably have no right to exist in the first place.

Take welfare, for example.  Individuals can earn more on welfare or unemployment than you can working a minimum wage job in most states.  (One of my old roommates was living on unemployment while he was living here and was making far more at that than he ever did by working.)  What incentive does that provide for people to be responsible?  I realize that some people are not able to work, and there ought to be programs in place to help them… but only after family and charitable organizations are no longer able to.  But to be paying the way for those that just choose to not work is irresponsible and certain economic doom.  It’s worse than communism.  And these are also the people that are being given tax credits under Obama’s plan.

Another is the current financial crisis we are in.  One of the main reasons for the collapse of several large banks is bad loans given to home owners.  And the reason that many of these are bad is that they are given to individuals that aren’t able, or choose not to, pay them back.  The banks are required by law to offer these loans.  It is the result of a bad law enacted in the late 1970s, and strengthened in the mid 1990s.  And this same law is also supported by Obama.  He even worked on lawsuit cases in the 1990s against banks that refused to grant these types of loans.  And too many of his contributors and primary advisors are directly involved, and directly responsible.  Even though he hasn’t necessarily had his hand directly in the issues, his attitudes are a mirror image of those that got us into the mess in the first place.  Again, choice (buy a home) without consequence (having to pay for it).

Continuing the idea of social issues…. Obama really scares me.  When asked about abortion, his response is, “we may not agree on abortion, but what we can agree on is that there are too many teen pregnancies.”  True, we do agree on that, but he really just completely avoided the question.  The real belief there is he supports choice without consequence, or “pro-choice.”  Shouldn’t the idea of taking the life away from an unborn baby be absolutely reprehensible?  To most, I think it is.  But Obama and other liberals take your attention away from the core issue of what is essentially murder (the worst sin that can be committed under LDS doctrine aside from the unpardonable sin) by shift it to being a matter of the freedom of choice for the mother, ignoring entirely the life of the baby.  Hmmm.  Sounds like exactly what Satan would say if he was asked the same question.  If someone is so lax in their attitude toward such a serious issue, where else is their judgment unsound?  Shouldn’t we be trying to teach people to be responsible in their actions rather than bailing them out of their bad decisions?  I know abortion is only one issue, but usually it serves as a good litmus test as to someone’s sense of personal morality and responsibility.

I believe that many of the core beliefs of the liberals of this country would lead us nowhere but a world of hurt.  Many of their positions reflect a step towards the government taking away our agency, forcing us live according to their ideals.  And these are the very ideas that are have been represented by and are coming forth from Barack Obama.  His past tells us so.

What’s even more scary is that we have a very left-leaning congress, so if we end up with a left-leaning President as well, the potential for a whole lot of liberal legislation is very high.  (What surprises me so much is that congress’s approval rating is well below 20%, even lower than President Bush’s, yet most up for reelection are likely to be reinstated.  What’s up with that?)

People will say anything to get elected.  Just listening to their campaigns really tells you nothing about what they truly believe and intend to do when in office.  How much of what has been promised by elected presidents during their campaigns of the past has actually come to fruition?  Not much.  To find out what someone really believes you have to look at their past… Their past accomplishments, opinions expressed in the past through writings and votes on various issues.  Actions speak a lot more than words, so sometimes it isn’t what you hear people talking about, it is what they aren’t talking about that is more scary.  I believe this is the case for both of our candidates, but much more-so of Barack Obama.  From watching him over the past four years, it just seems his basic philosophy is to take away responsibility and consequences for poor decisions, and his voting record and past speeches demonstrate this.  Nobody is ever going to learn, grow, and become better people if everybody is being bailed out for every poor decision they have ever made.  It just digs us deeper and deeper into an immorality hole.

The LDS Church and Homosexual Issues

With so many people upset with the Church over their stance on Gay Marriage, the last days are certainly upon us.  We’ve been promised again and again that the prophet wouldn’t lead us astray, yet this is the claim of some groups, even within some members of the Church itself.  Pretty sad.

What I don’t understand is why pro-gay groups are so upset.  The standard within the Church for gays is exactly the same as it is for heterosexuals.  Myself, being unmarried, am asked to live the exact same type of life as those that experience homosexual feelings and tendencies: no sex outside of marriage.  Yet you don’t see groups of single people beating at the doors of the Church asking for an exception to the rules.  I’m sure the drives and desires that heterosexual individuals like myself experience are just as strong as those experienced by any homosexual individual.  But we aren’t complaining.  We understand that what is being asked of us is the best thing for us from both a mortal and eternal perspective.  So we commit ourselves to live the principle.  End of story.

As far as the issue of gay marriage itself, the idea of allowing it is terrifying to me.  Not because I believe that gays have any fewer individual rights, but because of the implications of what could happen with legalized marriage between homosexuals.  (Marriage isn’t a right anyway, it’s a privilege granted to primarily create a protective, morally strong, environment in which to raise children.  It isn’t about validation of love; the idea of marrying for love is a very new concept in the history of the world, and those marrying primarily for love seem to be a lot more likely to divorce later, so maybe it isn’t the best reason that has existed anyway.  Take a look at a secular argument against gay marriage that can be found here.)

Once gay marriage is legalized and endorsed by the government, other forms of “marriage” can start to creep in.  What happens when individuals want to marry multiple partners?  Or when a father decides to marry his daughter?  Or, heaven forbid, an individual decides to marry something non-human?  Twenty or thirty years ago the idea of allowing homosexuals to marry was absolutely ludicrous, the same way that these other ideas seem outlandish and morally abhorrent today.  Yet that is the path that we are on once the government endorses homosexual marriage.  Not to mention that gay rights groups are already fighting to have their beliefs taught in schools (with no rights for the parents to be notified or prevent it) and to force churches to perform these marriages.  What ever happened to the right to believe and worship in the way we choose?

If gays want to have some of the benefits given to heterosexual married couples, that might be okay.  Hospital visitation rights can probably be extended to anyone that an individual chooses, insurance benefits could probably be granted to anyone an employee chooses (so long as they choose to pick up the tab of the extra cost) without disrupting society much.  It might be nice to be able to tell a hospital that I’d like a close friend be granted visitation rights.  And there are actually legal ways of doing this in place in most states already.  But to take things all the way to granting marriage to homosexuals is just going too far and sets a very dangerous precedent for the future.

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